11th December 2020 (UK VOD Premiere)
Terminally ill Anna returns to Oregon to reconnect with her estranged brother while simultaneously making the heart-wrenching choice to end her life putting to use the Death with Dignity Act.
Anna Camp, Steven Strait, Joe Lo Truglio
Anna is dying. She’s just received the news that her cancer is terminal. So with the short time she has left, she decides to reconnect with her estranged brother living in Oregon. The location is also important for another reason – it’s the first US state to legalise assisted suicide. It’s a process Anna has opted to undertake. Before then though, she hopes to make amends with her family members and spend the last few weeks of her life with friends, old and new.
It’s an extremely controversial subject to tackle and director Tim True keeps the tone mostly bittersweet. There are plenty of sequences of characters having fun, but there’s the undeniable underpinning of sadness. The script, co-written by True and Csaba Mera, isn’t the most subtle pieces of work, only exploring its difficult material on a surface level. Still, they manage to find humour in the anguish, not least in a scene which sees Anna and her girlfriend Luisa making light of the medication names while emptying her bowels.
And despite a strong performance from Anna Camp playing her first namesake, the signs of her character’s decline are largely kept at bay. She vomits into the toilet bowl – a lot – and over the course of the trim 80 minute runtime gets noticeably paler and her breathing becomes more shallow, but it’s still a rather sentimentalized take on a horrific illness. It’s understandable in a way, what with the procedure taking place long before the worst of it take hold of Anna’s body, but it’s hard not to think she may have had a little more life to live.
Support comes from Steven Strait as her brother Michael. Strait successfully depicts internal conflict over Anna’s death method, but unfortunately this promising narrative route is quickly shut down in favour of him being all-accepting. There’s also Gary, played by Joe Lo Truglio, the Aspergers and OCD suffering neighbour. I’m not quite sure what to make of him. Never seen without a slogan on his coffee mug or T-shirt, Gary’s candid approach to conversation does raise a few smiles. But whether this is an accurate and indeed sensitive portrayal of someone with Asperger’s is questionable. Kristin Taylor and Chloe Mason are introduced as love interests for Anna and Michael respectively, but I felt the film worked best when it was the close-knit triangle of Anna, Michael and Gary.
Nevertheless, as a factory made project to tug on the heartstrings for the most part it achieves the goal. The final ten minutes are the closest Here Awhile becomes to being sincere as Anna says her goodbyes and it’s here where a silent Steven Strait really shines. In fact, it’s in the brief pauses of conversation where the grim reality of the situation sets in. A striking opening scene has more emotion than the majority of what follows. A few more of these tender moments and Here Awhile may well have lingered longer in the memory than the short time it actually occupies.
Here Awhile is now available to rent on Digital Platforms through Signature Entertainment.
Strong performances from Anna Camp and Steven Strait
Final ten minutes will likely extract some tears from anyone who fully buys into its premise
Heavy handed delivery of delicate subject matter
On the fence about Asperger's suffering Gary character